Flimsy by Design

The sugar maples in our neighborhood have finally burst into flaming colors. They’re about a week behind schedule this year, slower to change due to warmer than normal temperatures.

Their brightness surprises, given the mild winter and dry summer. We’ve been at a Stage 3 Drought Emergency here in Central Massachusetts since early September, meaning no outdoor water use. Our reservoirs are at nearly half-capacity, and the city is buying water from Boston’s reservoir network to make up the difference.

img_2443But the trees have adjusted. Across the street from our home, our neighbor’s sugar maple has turned a brilliant gold. Others are bright orange, crimson, or my favorite—a mix of all three. We’ve been graced with another mild week, just right for taking a walk, scuffling through freshly fallen leaves, or sitting in our sukkah.

Our sukkah is a flimsy structure by design, with a bare wooden frame, sheets for walls and pine boughs for a roof, through which you can see the stars at night. During the weeklong Festival of Sukkot, which follows shortly after Yom Kippur, we eat our meals in the sukkah. In years past, when the girls were young, there was always a night when they’d sleep under the pine boughs with Al. (Too hard on my joints, and often too cold, to join them.)

I love to sit in our sukkah. The pine smells so lovely, like the middle of a forest, and the gourds we hang add a splash of fall colors and whimsy. There is something oddly reassuring about the sukkah’s flimsiness—a reminder that change, transition, temporality are the ultimate constants in life, that possessions don’t really matter all that much. Rather, what counts are the people we love who share our space, and the creative life force—for me, God—that nurtures and sustains us.   

I always find it fitting that Sukkot falls when the trees are turning in New England. How amazing that the transition from season to season, from vivid green to bare branches, is so stunningly beautiful. The leaves don’t simply shrivel up and drop to the ground as crumbled dust. They go out in a blaze of glory.

The prospect of change is so often frightening. What will we lose? How will we survive? Why must we give up the comfort of the familiar? Sitting in my sukkah, I try to remind myself that the only reality is the present moment, security is a state of mind, and transitions are opportunities to learn something new. However uncertain and troubling the future may seem today, I have the capacity to respond and adapt on my own terms.

And, oh, yes, change can be surprisingly beautiful, if you know where to look.

Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com.


  1. Pat Bizzell says:

    A beautiful meditation on my favorite holiday, Ev–thank you.

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